This week’s Heavy Music Headquarters album reviews include releases from Amanda Somerville’s Trillium, Exmortus, Eye Of The Destroyer, Fire Down Below, Ghost, The Konsortium, Lesser Glow, Megadeth, Nereis, Nomad, Posthuman Abomination, Refuge, Tomb Mold and Uniform & The Body.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Amanda Somerville’s Trillium – Tectonic (Frontiers)
Their 2011 debut was released under the name Trillium, but seven years later their frontwoman’s profile has increased, and the artist name for their sophomore effort Tectonic is Amanda Somerville’s Trillium. Somerville has recorded a couple albums with Helloween’s Michael Kiske and collaborated with numerous other artists ranging from Avantasia to Kamelot.
Tectonic has symphonic elements, but mixes in traditional and power metal as well. There are darker tracks like “Full Speed Ahead” alongside rousing and accessible songs such as “Hit Me” and “Nocturna.” Somerville gives a versatile vocal performance, utilizing everything from a sultry alto to an airy soprano. She’s equally adept at singing with texture and emotion as belting it out at full volume. The arrangements have ample atmosphere and depth, but the melodies and hooks don’t get lost in the shuffle.
Exmortus – The Sound of Steel (Prosthetic)
Technical wizards Exmortus return with album number five complete with more amazing artwork and enough flair to choke a horse. Sometimes an overt technical approach can turn fans off to the music at hand, but in Exmortus’ case it is just flat out fun. Conan’s growled vocals fit well within the songs, as they are usually barked over an arpeggio or two.
Album opener “Make Haste” is a the perfect appetizer for what to expect on this album: establish main riff, a chorus and extremely tasty guitar solos to help bridge to the end. If you are a fan of death metal and/or power metal you should certainly have Exmortus’ The Sound Of Steel in your collection, especially if you want a fun ripper of an album.
Eye of the Destroyer – Violent By Design (Self)
New Jersey slam superstars Eye of the Destroyer continue their furious flurry of EP releases with Violent By Design, a two track affair punctuated by an appearance by Pyrexia’s Jim Beach on “Postmortem Mutilation.” Vocalist Chris Halpin seems to have ingested a ton of Corpsegrinder’s Cannibal Corpse output as his vocal approach is quite similar.
The riffs are certainly influenced by what Dying Fetus have established over the course of their career; helping to bridge the two vocalists on the second track quite well with an infectious groove. Drummer Joe Randazza’s battery is quite busy on the double bass front, pounding away at eardrums with little care as to how much it might hurt. Death metal fans, pay attention here, these touring titans are out to make a name for themselves.
Fire Down Below – Hymn Of The Cosmic Man (Ripple)
On their sophomore release, the Belgian stoner metal/rock band Fire Down Below leave behind the confines of earth and launch into the cosmos with Hymn Of The Cosmic Man. The outer space themed concept record chronicles a single soul against an unnamed threat to mankind.
After a doomy opening interlude, Fire Down Below transition into stoner metal mode with brisk tempos and groovy riffs. They contrast epic jams like the 9 minute “The Cosmic Pilgrim” with focused tracks such as “Saviour Of Man” and the brief but trippy “Nebula.” In addition to stoner, doom and psychedelia, the band injects prog as well, especially on the 11 minute closer “Adrift In A Sea Of Stars.” Their independently released debut may have missed the radar of many, but stoner metal/rock fans will want to check this one out.
Ghost – Prequelle (Loma Vista)
Even though they are more of a rock band, Ghost have been fully embraced by metal fans. Their potent live shows, visual imagery and lyrical themes are right in the wheelhouse of metal fans, while Ghost’s music is catchy hard rock with a ’70s and ’80s vibe. Their fourth studio album Prequelle may be their catchiest release so far.
Tobias Forge, now going by Cardinal Copia, along with the Nameless Ghouls, have dialed down the occult rock while amping up the melodies on tracks like “Rats.” Ghost still sound ominous and have some occult rock moments, but bring the prog on instrumentals “Helvetesfonster” and “Miasma” (which has a sax solo and pays homage to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”) along with pop sensibilities on several songs including “See The Light” and the ’80s tinged “Danse Macabre.” The 9 tracks are diverse and memorable, more appropriate for singing along to than headbanging, but undeniably enjoyable and surprisingly uplifting.
The Konsortium – Rogaland (Agonia)
When the Norwegian band The Konsortium released their self-titled debut back in 2011, their identities were hidden under masks and pseudonyms, except for bassist Teloch (Mayhem). Seven years later they re-emerge with Rogaland, and are now revealing their lineup, which includes frontman F.G. Gugelli and drummer Dirge Rep (ex-Enslaved).
Their is music is black metal based with some impressive guitar work from T. Jacobsen and B. Waldejer. They also inject thrash, death and progressive metal into the mix. Gugelli has an interesting harsh vocal style that gives them a distinctive sound. There are also some melodic vocals, such as on “Fjella” and “Stormen.” Sometimes straightforward, other times unpredictable, Rogaland is a compelling and unique black metal release.
Lesser Glow – Ruined (Pelagic)
Lesser Glow only need 25 minutes to reach a goal of devastating yet melody-focused,doom metal on their debut album, Ruined. Unkempt riffs have their crunchiness dialed up high, so even when the vocals transition into a tuneful style, the songs retain their crushing sensibility.
And it’s developed in under half an hour, which is a feat that eludes many bands in this genre. There was no initial intent on this writer’s part to emphasize how brief Ruined is, but that is an important benefit to a listener who wants an uncompromising directness to their music. This makes Ruined a striking first look at a band oozing with promise.
Megadeth – Killing Is My Business…And Business Is Good!: The Final Kill (Legacy)
When Megadeth‘s debut album Killing Is My Business…And Business Is Good! was released in 1985, it marked the entry of the final “Big Four” band into the thrash pantheon. Still bitter from his expulsion from Metallica, Dave Mustaine delivered a angry, razor-sharp batch of raw thrash. Mustaine, guitarist Chris Poland, bassist David Ellefson and drummer Gar Samuelson blazed through eight tracks in just over 30 minutes.
The 2018 edition of the album has been remastered, and includes a second disc of additional material that includes live version of 7 of the 8 songs along with remastered demos of “Last Rites/Loved To Deth,” “The Skull Beneath The Skin” and “Mechanix.” Even with a more modern production, the songs still sound raw and feral. It was already reissued once in 2002, but the added live tracks give some extra incentive for fans to add this version of the seminal album to their collection.
Nereis – Turning Point (Eclipse)
Their promo material says that Nereis play a form of alternative metal. There is definitely some power metal and other genres mixed in, so this is a somewhat accurate statement. On their debut album Turning Point they definitely play it safe, however. There is nothing overly progressive about this music and it lacks something in its simplicity. The production is still very good and allows the music to breathe and make its mark. There is a very crisp manner to these riffs that is very addictive and clear.
Still, even with the massive amount of energy the tracks fall a bit flat with middling riffs that aren’t particularly interesting and don’t raise a pulse. They are still effective enough to rouse some interest, but nothing overly spectacular, as can be seen from album highlight “The Wave”, which does indeed make its mark. Turning Point is a fairly neat album, but it isn’t anything to write home about either. Approach this album with a little caution even though it gets a mild recommendation.
Nomad – Feral (APF)
Seven years since their formation and Manchester four-piece Nomad are poised to release their debut full-length record in Feral, a seven-track offering of sludge metal that mingles elements of stonerized doom with foul whiskey-breath grooves typically found skulking the receding floodwaters of NOLA. The sound and result, however, is not quite as unrestrained as the album title may suggest.
Nomad tread a familiar trail on Feral, doling out something akin to Down and Crowbar with perhaps a rockier vibe. An emaciated guitar tone keeps things at a constant tepidity and the hardcore shouts of frontman Rev. Drian Nash (who occasionally flashes a solid, scratchy scream) almost sink Feral from the jump. Thankfully, Nomad have a knack for riffs, and while there could be more, their skill set is hard to dismiss when the closer “Shallow Fate” rolls on through.
Posthuman Abomination – Transcending Embodiment (Comatose)
Italian brutal death metal outfit Posthuman Abomination can totally be considered as a supergroup, when it included former and current members of well known acts such as Septycal Gorge, Vomit the Soul, Clitoridus Invaginatus, Catastrophic Evolution, Devangelic and Natrium. Released Crafting Life demo back in 2017, Posthuman Abomination now have set Transcending Embodiment as their debut, a short but savage brutal death metal record.
Transcending Embodiment is an impressive record even if it revolves around common and familiar elements of brutal death metal at most of its moments and nothing different is happening. With songs slightly touched by technical death, it also portrays the band’s excellent performance while each member makes their instruments bleed to death and Lorenzo Orrù’s vocals shape the music’s brutality brilliantly. Transcending Embodiment is pure satisfaction for fans that enjoy brutal death metal as what it is and how it should be.
Refuge – Solitary Men (Frontiers)
A few years back, the classic lineup of the German heavy/speed metal band Rage reunited and did some shows together. It was so successful they decided to record an album of new material. Frontman Peavy Wagner (who is still in Rage), guitarist Manni Schmidt (Grave Digger) and drummer Christos Efthimiadis recorded five Rage albums together (1988’s Perfect Man through 1993’s The Missing Link), and a quarter century later emerge under the moniker of Refuge for Solitary Men.
As you’d expect, the album is classic Teutonic thrash/traditional metal with some power metal influences. They get off to a slow start, as opening track “Summer’s Winter” is the record’s weakest, but quickly rebound and deliver the sound Rage fans expect. The album is a mix of potent, upbeat tracks and more moderately paced fare. It has a classic sound, but the mix by Dan Swano makes sure it doesn’t sound dated or retro. The album’s target demo, fans of early Rage, should approve of the new material.
Tomb Mold – Manor of Infinite Forms (20 Buck Spin)
Tomb Mold have been prolific in their short time as a group, already releasing multiple demos and a full-length in the span of two years. Manor of Infinite Forms is a continuation of this proficiency, which hasn’t dimmed the group’s gritty death metal flame. The seven versatile songs on their second album crackle with crooked tempos and an unwelcoming demeanor.
The ragged momentum of Manor of Infinite Forms is propelled in part by drummer/vocalist Max Klebanoff. His sadistic growls and schizophrenic drum performance give the other members a path to follow along in the insanity. Closer “Two Worlds Become One,” with its low-key acoustic intro and death/doom pacing, is a top-notch finish to the album.
Uniform and The Body – Mental Wounds Not Healing (Sacred Bones)
Less than a month after the release of their album I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer, The Body are back with new album, the latest in a long line of collaborative releases. Their collaboration with Uniform is titled Mental Wounds Not Healing. It’s from the Ozzy Osbourne song “Crazy Train,” but this album sounds nothing like Ozzy.
This isn’t one of those albums where two completely different bands team up to see what happens. Uniform and The Body are from opposite coasts, but have a lot in common. They manage to create something that’s not a huge departure from their respective bands, but still fresh and unique. The songs are industrial and noisy, utilizing vocals from both The Body’s Chip King and Uniform’s Michael Berdan. The songs are sometimes dense, dissonant and oppressive, other times more accessible but no less challenging. Appreciation of experimentation and the avant-garde are prerequisites to absorbing this album.